Queer Places:
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
Lancing College, Lancing BN15 0RW, Regno Unito
Foxhold, Foxhold Bucklebury Common, Bucklebury, Reading RG7 6RT, Regno Unito

Peter Burra (1909 – 27 April 1937)[1] was a British writer and critic, the author of "The Novels of E. M. Forster".

Peter Burra and his twin sister Nella Burra were close friend with Peter Pears; Burra and Pears went to school together at Lancing College and then Oxford University. Helen "Nella" Pomfret Burra (1909-1999) was a singer and actress who worked with the Group Theatre productions. She married actor and director John Percival Moody (1906-1993).[2] At Lancing College, both Pears, piano, and Burra, violin, were members of the Lancing Chamber Music Society.[3]

From February 1930 to June 1931, Peter Burra edited the literary magazine Farrago, published by Simon Nowell Smith. They were 6 numbers in total and the cover designs and plates were by Edward Burra, Albert Rutherston, Oliver Holt and Laurence Whistler. In issue 5 there is also an headpiece by Rex Whistler. The magazine published early poems by Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Day-Lewis, plus contributions by A.J.A. Symons, John Sparrow, Max Beerbohm and Lord David Cecil.[4]

Burra was an essayist; in 1934, in "The Novels of E.M. Forster", he was the first to highlight E. M. Forster's highly musical technique of employing textual leitmotifs, which he referred to as "rhythm".[5] He would go on and write the introduction to Everyman edition of A Passage to India (1942), released after his death.[6] E.M.Forster said of him that he was "the best critic of his generation".[7]

Also in 1934, Burra wrote Van Gogh, published by Duckworth, and in 1936, again with Duckworth, he published Wordsworth, Great Lives.[8][9] These two biographies established his reputation as a writer.[7]

Burra was a special correspondent for The Times, and it was while in Barcelona to cover the ISCM Music Festival that he met Benjamin Britten for the first time; in a letter dated 1 May 1936, Burra tells Pears he has also met Britten's close friend Lennox Berkeley. In 1936 Pears was living in Burra's cottage in Bucklebury Common.[2]

Burra was a book reviewer for The Spectator.[10] In November 1936, Burra reviewed "The Agamemnon of Aeschylus" produced by Rupert Doone with music of Britten; the review appeared in the Group Theathre Paper.[11]

Peter Burra was friends with both Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten at different times. Pears lived with him at Bucklebury Common[12] and Britten, while referring to him, used the word "Dear", which was "Britten's blanket term for his intimate friends"; he used the same word in regard to Peter Pears and Lennox Berkeley.[13]

Burra was killed on 27 April 1937, when a light aircraft flown by a friend crashed near Bucklebury Common, Berkshire.[2] It was to have been Peter's first flying lesson. After visiting Spain, and a few days before the bombing of Guernica, he was hoping to help provide air-cover to Republicans.

It was while sorting Burra's personal effects that the relationship between Pears and Britten started.[2]

Benjamin Britten wrote an unpublished song, "Not Even Summer Yet", for Peter Pears dedicated to Peter Burra. Pears sang it for the first time accompanied by Gordon Thorne during a concert to the memory of Burra. The song was later revived by tenor Neil Mackle accompanied at the piano by Iain Burnside, at Wigmore Hall, London, on November 22, 1983.[2]

Lennox Berkeley and Benjamin Britten dedicated the orchestral suite, Mont Juic (1937) "In memory of Peter Burra".[2]


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/queerplaces/images/Peter_Burra#References